Parasites are a diverse group of organisms ranging from microscopic ameoba, to metres long helminths. A parasite is defined as an organism that lives in or on a host, and feeds at the expense of the host. Parasitic infections are more common in tropical and subtropical regions, and are responsible for serious morbidity and mortality. Normally considered the most important parasitic disease, it is estimated that malaria is responsible for over 1 million deaths each year.
|Causes||Food, Air, Water, Soil, Medical Settings|
|See Also||Infections, Respiratory Conditions, Digestive Conditions, Urinary Conditions, Musculoskeletal Conditions|
|Books||Books on Infections, Allergies, Intolerances|
|Articles||Articles on Infections / Allergies / Sensitivities|
Any infection depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to a pathogen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality the less likely they will be affected by exposure to parasites or other pathogens.
The sources of infectious parasites include:
Many parasitic diseases can be diagnosed based on clinical symptoms and physical exam. The following diagnostic testing may be done to confirm the presence of a parasite and guide treatment.
- Microscopic or macroscopic examination of specimens collected, including fecal or blood smears are commonly used.
- Immunodiagnostic tests for antibodies and antigens to evaluate for Plasmodium spp, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidum spp., Entameoba histolytica, and Trichomonas vaginalis are available.
Common Parasite-Associated Conditions
Parasitic Diseases by Parasite
The following is a list of common and/or important parasitic infections. This list is not exhaustive.
|Leishmania||Leishmaniasis||Cutaneous ulceration, fever, enlarged liver and/or spleen|
|Trypanasoma||African Sleeping Sickness and Chagas||Fever, lymphadenopathy, meningoencphalitis, congestive heart problems|
|Giardia||Giardiasis||Noninflammatory diarrhea with malabsorption (steatorrhea)|
|Trichomonas||Trichomoniasis (STI)||Vaginitis, urethritis|
|Entamoeba||Amebiasis||Diarrhea, colitis, liver abscess|
|Babesia||Babesiosis||Fever, malaise, hemolytic anemia|
|Cryptosporidium||Cryptosporidiosis||Non-inflammatory diarrhea, can be severe in individuals with AIDS|
|Toxoplasma||Toxoplasmosis||Fever, lymphadenopathy, congenital abnormalities, encephalitis, pneumonitis|
|Plasmodium spp||Malaria||Paroxysmal fever, chills, enlarged liver and/or spleen, headache|
Table adapted from Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases 7th ed 
|Ascaris lumbricoides (roundworm)||Ascariasis||Diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, slower growth, stomach ache, cough, breathing difficulty|
|Trichuris trichuria (whipworm)||Trichuriasis||Can be asymptomatic, or cause painful stools, rectal prolapse, anemia|
|Ancylostoma duodenale||Hookworm||Most individuals are asymptomatic, but may develop anemia, digestive disturbances, protein loss|
|Enterobius vermicularis (pinworm)||Enterobiasis||Commonly affects children and causes itchy anal region, disturbed sleep|
|Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi||Filariasis||Can cause lymphedema and elphantiasis leading to permanent disability|
|Onchocerca volvulus||River Blindness||Dermatitis, lymphadenitis, ocular lesions and progressive blindness|
|Schistosoma spp||Schistosomiasis, bilharzia||Rash, abdominal pain, enlarged liver, blood in stool and urine, increase risk of bladder cancer|
|Fasciola hepatica (liver fluke)||Fascioliasis||Initially nausea, vomiting, fever, rash, chronically can cause bile duct impairment, and liver and gallbladder isues|
|Taenia saginata, Taenia solium, Dipylidium||Beef tapeworm, pork tapeworm, cat/dog tapeworm||Generally mild, but can cause weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain|
|Pediculus humanus corporis and capitis||Head and body lice||Itching, irritability, and sleep disturbance|
|Phthirus pubis||Crab (pubic) louse||Itching and secondary sores|
|Sarcoptes scabiei||Scabies||Itching and skin rash|
|C. felis, C. canis||Cat and Dog fleas||Causes itching and irritation|
|Pulex irritans||Human flea||Causes itching and irritation|
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. The treatment for parasitic infections follow the same principles as all infections. The specific type of infection, i.e., whether it is acute or chronic and what physiological system is affected dictates the specific treatment strategy. Only those treatment specific to parasites are included in this section. For a full listing of treatment options refer to the section on infections.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
- Treating a parasitic infection can take at least 3 months, due to the life-cycle of parasites. The symptoms may resolve much quicker, but it is important to stick with any treatment plan for at least 90 days.
- Herbs with antiparasitic properties include Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Euphorbia (Euphorbia officinarum), Garlic (Allium sativum), Pau d'Arco (Tabebuia avellanedae), Propolis, Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) Accessed online May 2012 available at: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/
- Fritsche TR, Selvarangan R (2011) McPherson: Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 22nd ed Chap 62 Medical Parasitology Saunders
- Radvin JI, Petri WA (2009) Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases 7th ed Chap 272 Introduction to Protozoal Diseases
- Radvin JI, Petri WA (2009) Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases 7th ed Chap 286 Introduction to Helminthic Diseases
- Radvin JI, Petri WA (2009) Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases 7th ed Chap 292 Introduction to Ectoparasitic Diseases